Thu 26 May 2016 | By:

How to Start a Business in North Dakota: 10 Simple Steps

Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea

Write a Business PlanYour first step is to take your ambition seriously. The difference between big ideas that go nowhere and small ideas that change your world…is a plan. In this case we’re talking about a structured perspective that includes an executive summary, basic biz-description/pitch, an outline of products/services, financials, development approach, etc. Modern software makes it much more effective these days.

Take Action: Seize upon our free and easy email-based Business Planning Course designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide tons of other great tools along the way.


Step 2: Choose Biz-Structure & Incorporate

How to Choose a Business StructureWith an initial plan built, or its foundation, it’s time to incorporate. Among many other benefits the process protects you, secures your brand name by registering/filing it with the state, and integrates aspects of steps 3 (taxes) and 4 (licensing). But before you can do all this, you must first choose what kind of business structure or legal entity serves you best. For entrepreneurs it’s typically an LLC.

Take Action: As this part of starting a business can be rather sensitive, we’ve developed quick-guides for the most popular entities if you want to skip over to those.


Step 3: Sync with the North Dakota Tax Code

Small Business TaxesWhen you work with incorporation providers, like IncFile for example, they integrate this part into their startup packages. It’s like working with a law firm, just cheaper. They’ll assist you in getting your Custom Operating Agreement, Tax ID number, and typically source any other paperwork or forms required. The good news is that North Dakota’s tax code is very friendly with plenty of potential credits, incentives, subsidies, and kick-backs to leverage.

Take Action: If you’re doing this on your own you’ll want to head on over to the ND Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) website and create an account, then bookmark their New Businesses section which will come in handy.


Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits

Business LicensesIf you represent a startup natural gas or oil company that’s one thing, you’re going to have some serious regulatory hoops to jump through. For most other small businesses wanting to set up shop in the state it’s like a casual ride along the sweeping grassland sections of Maah Daah Hey trail. There’s two options to choose from:

  1. For DYI’ers you’ll want to bookmark the New Business Registration Licensing Information page through
  2. For $99 you could get IncFile’s Business License Package which is amazing! They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels for you, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.


Step 5: Create a Dedicated Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountThe people of North Dakota like doing things out in the open, and they don’t mind mixing competitive skiing with shooting, but your brand needs to have a centralized financial persona. Don’t make the cardinal mistake of mixing business with personal accounts of any kind.

Take Action


Step 6: Pick a Stellar North Dakota Location

How to Choose a Business LocationThere are no massive metropolises in ND, with Fargo being the biggest at a smidgen over 113k (2013) despite sitting right on the border of Minnesota. Instead you’ve got a littering of small to medium-sized towns like Williston, cozy Mandan in western Bismark, Valley City, and gorgeous Minot. Tons of breathtaking land, all the amenities of a modernized state, and growing demographics, what more could you ask for?

Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.


Step 7: Finance/Bootstrap Your Platform

How to Finance a BusinessBecause of the oil boom and agriculture staying strong North Dakota’s economy has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last decade. Maybe this is why they have so many festivals (you have no idea)? The point here is that you’ll gain access to tons of capital just waiting to be put into action locally, on the state/county-levels, through private investor/VC/angel networks, and through online platforms like CrowdFunding.

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like warm honey and ice fishing. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.


Step 8: Design & Publish a Business Website

Build a Business WebsiteNo one expects you to design a website the way Mezzaluna designs a dessert dish, or spend a small fortune on the coolest UX since the iPod, but you need to have a professional website to be taken as a serious brand. There’s really no doubt about it anymore.

Take Action: If you could use some help in this department the first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there aren’t too many yet. Head on over to this easy Business Website Builder Guide to get a head start.


Step 9: Market Your Business

Social Media ChannelStepping back and looking at the entire subject of “marketing” all at once can be like witnessing sunset in the flatlands of North Dakota:  awe inspiring and intimidating. At the end of the day though you can break it all down to the micro-interactions your ideal clients/customers/users have with your brand.

Take Action: How are they finding you? What does it feel like to look at your logo? What kind of voicing do they hear in your emails or in your web copy? These are the only things that REALLY matter. Don’t miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. You get the idea.


Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsSpeaking of motivation, please consider the Startup Savant team a powerful resource to tuck into your goodie bag. Around here we focus on guiding, on continued learning for fellow change-makers, great insightful interviews, and introducing you to the savviest tools.

Take Action: Tap into our weekly newsletter filled with tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from ambitious professionals like you.

Please note that this informational guide is not a replacement of legal advice. It is instructional and informative in nature. If you need more information on the legalities of starting a business, you can consult an attorney for professional legal advice.

About Liesha Petrovich

Liesha is a small business owner of 20 years, host of Startup Savant, the owner of a karate dojo in Maine, and creator of Work Mobly. During free time she's with her family and working on a Doctorate in Entrepreneurship.